Get a copy of your credit report: Knowing what is on your credit report is important – you can’t fix it if you don’t know exactly what is wrong. According to a recent survey by Bankrate Inc., 31% of adults do not know their own credit score. Since this is one of the main factors in a bank’s decision to give you a loan or mortgage, it is a good idea to both know and understand this number.  Trisha cleaned up her act and her credit report:
FICO, myFICO, Score Watch, The score lenders use, and The Score That Matters are trademarks or registered trademarks of Fair Isaac Corporation. Equifax Credit Report is a trademark of Equifax, Inc. and its affiliated companies. Many factors affect your FICO Scores and the interest rates you may receive. Fair Isaac is not a credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Fair Isaac does not provide "credit repair" services or advice or assistance regarding "rebuilding" or "improving" your credit record, credit history or credit rating. FTC's website on credit.
When negative information in your report is accurate, only time can make it go away. A credit reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. Information about an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. The seven-year reporting period starts from the date the event took place. There is no time limit on reporting information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you’ve applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance.
11. Pay your bills twice a month. Using too much of your credit limit at any given moment doesn’t look good. Suppose your limit is $3,000 and a month’s worth of havoc (car repair, doctor bills, plane ticket for kid to get to college) means you’ve charged up $2,900. Sure, you plan to pay in full by the 18th of the month – but until then it looks like you’re maxing out yet another card.
Increasing your limit shouldn’t be hard if you pay your bills on time. Just make sure to build your case.  Tell the representative that you speak with about your long standing payment history with no late payments. Let them know if you recently received a raise at work. Be honest about how you plan on using the limit increase and how you plan to pay any new purchases off.
So if you want to raise your score in a hurry, pay your credit card balances way before the due date. That way, instead of reporting your balances that were due, as shown on your monthly statement, your credit card company will instead report your reduced balances to the credit bureaus (i.e. the balance left over after you’ve made your most recent monthly payment).
Many people, however, don’t have the time or don’t understand how to make their case, so they look into hiring a credit repair company to dispute errors on their behalf. These companies can charge a fee for their legwork (more on how that works in a minute), but there are times when the extra help can certainly be welcome. (Say you have multiple errors across credit reports or you’ve been the victim of widespread identity theft.)
As far as templates go, there are plenty of free credit repair letter templates online. Debt.com offers a free credit repair template letter that you can use if you want to repair your credit on your own. Template letter archives just change a few words based on common situations. But if you aren’t confident about making disputes and how to word the important stuff (which is the stuff you must fill in with any templates), then all the templates in the world won’t help.

If following the steps above seems daunting, some organizations specialize in paid credit repair services. Most of the services require a monthly subscription fee between $60-$100 per month, and most reviews report that the negative items are completely removed within 3-5 months. Despite the high cost, legitimate companies provide a valuable service if you’ve been the victim of identity theft and you want someone else to do the work for you.
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Amount of Debt: Debt contributes 30% to a FICO Score’s calculation and can be easier to clean up than payment history, according to FICO’s website. (It weighs heavily on other credit scoring models, too.) That’s because if you currently have five maxed out credit cards, creditors worry whether you’ll be able to take on more credit and whether they’ll get paid back first or if your other creditors will.
Once you take steps to improve your credit score, keep checking your credit report to ensure that you take the right steps to get the desired credit score. You can consider going for a credit-monitoring service. There are companies that offer free services, and others give regular three-bureau monitoring services. This kind of help will keep you updated on your credit score.
The last major factor is your history of applying for credit. This accounts for 10% of most credit scores and may be holding you back if you applied for several credit accounts recently. This factor also takes time to correct, but any hard inquiries into your credit will only ding your scores slightly, and as they get older, they will have less of an impact. A year is generally when they begin to stop hurting your credit scores.
This is one of the most overlooked credit repair secrets.  In an effort to make you less desirable to their competitors, some creditors will not post your proper credit line. Showing less available credit can negatively impact your credit score. If you see this happening on your credit report, you have a right to complain and bring this to their attention. If you have bankruptcies that should be showing a zero balance…make sure they show a zero balance! Very often the creditor will not report a "bankruptcy charge-off" as a zero balance until it's been disputed.
To begin improving your credit score, you should aim to keep your credit card balances on the lower end along with any other type of revolving credit you may have. You should also begin the task of paying down your debt rather than moving it around, and you shouldn’t close any unused credit cards because you are looking for a “quick fix” strategy to improve your credit scores.
What can and DOES change is whether you have a collector pursuing you for the debt. If you are talking about a dormant account that has been in collections and has finally been left alone with no collections activity for a few years, messing with it can be problematic from the point of view that the collections people will start pestering you again to see if they can get money and if the SOL isn't up, they can start reporting on it again which can affect your score or they could even file suit if your state SOL isn't up.
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The best way to handle these types of information lines on your credit report is to dispute them but you have to remember that if that isn't done correctly, it is like kicking a hornets nest. Just calling them and saying, "hey, I dispute this." is NOT good enough, regardless of what ANYONE says. It has to be done with a certified, return receipt letter that has been properly worded to prevent the sleezy little buggers from using a loophole. You can find a lot of information out there about how to do this on sites from people like Dave Ramsey or with self help books like Weathering Debt (either one works, but I prefer Weathering Debt, it was much more concise and to the point) but whatever you do, DON'T try to wing it and don't pay someone to do something you can do yourself with ease and for free. Besides, you need to know how to stop the problem from happening again, right?
Even if you are careful about guarding your information, you can still be a victim of identity theft. Anyone who gains access to personal information like social security numbers and addresses can open credit cards or loans in your name with no intention of paying any of the money borrowed back. When this happens, your credit will suffer and it can take awhile to repair the damage. Pull your credit reports on a regular basis and look out for accounts and information that are not yours.
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